SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) launched two projectiles toward the sea yesterday, South Korea’s military said, hours after the North offered to resume nuclear diplomacy with the United States (US) but warned its dealings with Washington may end without new US proposals.
The launches and demand for new proposals were apparently aimed at pressuring the US to make concessions when the North Korea-US talks restart. North Korea is widely believed to want the US to provide security guarantees and extensive relief from US-led sanctions in return for limited denuclearisation steps.
The North Korean projectiles fired from its South Phyongan province, which surrounds its capital city of Pyongyang, flew about 330 kilometres across the country and in the direction of the waters off its east coast, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and Defence Ministry.
The military said South Korea will monitor possible additional launches. The JCS didn’t immediately say whether the weapons were ballistic missiles or rocket artillery. “More detailed analysis is needed to determine the exact specifications,” JCS spokesman Kim Joon-rak said.
Yesterday’s launches were the eighth round of launches since late July and the first since August 24. The previous seven launches have revealed short-range missile and rocket artillery systems that experts say would potentially expand its capabilities to strike targets throughout South Korea, including US military bases.
On Monday night, North’s First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui said North Korea is willing to resume nuclear diplomacy in late September but that Washington must come to the negotiating table with acceptable new proposals.
She said if the proposals don’t satisfy North Korea, dealings between the two countries may end.
US President Donald Trump called North Korea’s announcement “interesting”.
“We’ll see what happens,” Trump said. “In the meantime, we have our hostages back, we’re getting the remains of our great heroes back and we’ve had no nuclear testing for a long time.”
The White House said it was aware of the new reports of projectiles being launched from North Korea and was continuing to monitor the situation and consulting with its allies in the region.
South Korea’s Presidential Office said National Security Adviser Chung Eui-yong presided over an emergency National Security Council meeting where officials expressed “strong concern” over the continuing short-range launches by the North.
Japan’s Defence Ministry said the projectiles did not land in Japan’s territorial waters or its exclusive economic zone and there was no indication the launches posed a direct threat to Japan’s security.
“We believe North Korea is upgrading its (missile) technology by repeatedly firing missiles,” said Japanese Defence Minister Takeshi Iwaya.
“We consider this a serious problem and will continue to monitor the development, while ensuring the functioning of warning and surveillance activity.”
In the late-night statement carried by state media, Choe said North Korea is willing to sit down with the US “for comprehensive discussions in late September of the issues we have so far taken up, at a time and place to be agreed”.
Choe said she hopes the US will bring “a proposal geared to the interests of the DPRK and the US and based on decision methods acceptable to us”.